No, not the Interior Secretary (although he/she is missing, too). If we are going to do something about climate, then we need to develop some sort of international negotiating strategy, because we can’t mitigate climate change unless we get the Indians and the Chinese on board.
Currently, the lead agency for such a process is the State Department, but in my view, that needs to change. Hillary Clinton is going to have enough on her hands without also giving her the brief of the perhaps the most complex international negotiation in history. In any event, the State Department bureaucracy is ill-suited to handle these sorts of things: it doesn’t coordinate well across agencies, its powerful regional bureaus have little use for environmental issues, and it does not have good connections with the domestic interests that will have to be on board for a climate agreement.
Instead, as I argue in a piece coming out in a few weeks in the Northwestern University Law Review, the lead agency should be the office of the United States Trade Representative. Getting a climate agreement requires trading across issue areas, and USTR is the best agency to do it (although it also has its flaws). In addition, USTR’s has vast expertise in getting executive agencies and domestic interests to sign off on political and economically sensitive deals.
At this stage, we don’t know Obama’s choice for that job: everyone is talking about Becerra, but he might not want it. If he does, he has an excellent environmental record (and his trade record is much more pro-free trade than the naysayers claim, about which more later), and he could fill the job well.